This article was last updated on Friday at 4:19 p.m.
TVO.org reporters and editors are tracking stories about the coronavirus pandemic in all regions of the province. Here's what Ontarians need to know.
- Per Friday's government report, there are 2,290 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 151,257 since the pandemic began; 877 people are in hospital, 261 of them in intensive care and 168 on ventilators. To date, 4,098 people have died.
According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 139 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 757 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 843 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 2,471 confirmed resident deaths and eight confirmed staff deaths.
As of December 18, in publicly funded schools, there are 111 new school-related student cases (for a total of 4,996), 22 new school-related staff cases (for a total of 1,060), and no new case in "individuals not identified" (for a total of 1,095); 957 schools have a reported case, and 22 are currently closed.
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On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that it will provide $77 million to help people who were laid off due to the impact of COVID-19 find in-demand jobs in their local communities. According to a press release, the funding will be provided through the redesigned second career grant program and will help more than 2,750 job seekers with up to $28,000 for tuition, training materials and living expenses.
The Ontario government announced measures to support the hospitality industry and other hard-hit industries during the pandemic on Thursday. This includes an extension of the regulatory changes brought forward under the Employment Standards Act to July 3, 2021 and the introduction of special industry regulation allowing employers to negotiate alternative arrangements with unions for putting termination and severance pay into trust for laid-off employees.
On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that it is providing over $147 million to expand access to the provincial mental health and addictions system and address capacity issues in response to COVID-19. "We are supporting our most vulnerable populations, while expanding community-based and virtual and online services to close gaps in care and ensure the right mental health and addictions supports are widely available," said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, in a statement.
On December 15, the Ontario government announced that it is allocating an additional $120 million to help municipalities and Indigenous community partners protect the health and safety of vulnerable people during COVID-19. According a press release, the funding is part of the Social Services Relief Fund, which provides up to $4 billion to Ontario municipalities under the federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement.
On Monday, Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care announced that UniversalCare Canada Inc. will temporarily take over the management of Westside, a long-term care home in Etobicoke. According to CTV news, this is the first time the Ontario government has tapped a private company to take over management of a long-term care home grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak.
On December 14, Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker from the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place, a long-term-care home in Toronto, became the first person in Ontario and Canada to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement released by the government, Premier Doug Ford says that 2,500 health care workers in Ontario's hospitals and long-term-care homes will be vaccinated over the coming days and weeks, with more people to follow as additional shipments arrive.
On Thursday, after Ontario reported more than 2,400 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of cases recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic, the Ontario Hospital Association released a statement asking the government to implement and enforce a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with an infection rate of 40/100,000 population or higher. “We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals. Every health care system has its breaking point,” read the statement.
Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
- According to data as of December 18, there are 758 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 51,495 since the pandemic began; 268 of them are in hospital. In total, 1,770 people have died.
- On Monday, the city of Missausaga announced that it had issued over 30 tickets to businesses and individuals for breaking COVID-19 lockdown restrictions over the weekend. According to a statement from the city, four tickets were issued to non-essential businesses and the remaining 33 tickets were issued to individuals at private gatherings at four separate locations. Under Grey/Lockdown, no indoor gatherings are permitted unless with members of the same household, restaurants may only serve takeout, and non-essential retail can only have curbside pickup or delivery services.
- Officials are once again warning Hamilton that a lockdown could be imminent, after public health reported a daily record of 162 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday. As the Hamilton Spectator reports, this came the same day the Ontario Nurses Association called conditions in the Grace Villa long-term care home — the site of Hamilton's largest outbreak — "horrendous" when its staff were first deployed there to help. Public health has issued infection control orders to six long-term care homes, five of which still have outbreaks.
- After 680 News reported on a memo showing Hamilton's Lime Ridge Mall (owned by Cadillac Fairview) would extend its hours to manage traffic from GTA shoppers starting Tuesday, community members and city officials criticized the shopping centre. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the decision could encourage non-essential shopping, but added that locals socializing are the real driver of spread in Hamilton, not out-of-town shoppers.
- Hamilton public health says it will no longer share details about COVID-19 deaths with the public, due an increase in cases and staff workloads. Hamilton will still report that information (including details such as age for the victim and location of death) to the province, but Ontario keeps that private. As CHCH reports, experts say more information about deaths is needed for the public to take the threat seriously, not less.
- During Ontario's enforcement blitz of COVID-19 business regulations, more than one in four Hamilton businesses visited were accused of rule-breaking, the Spectator reports. Inspectors reported contraventions at 147 of the 544 businesses and ultimately issued seven tickers to five establishments. They also issued 14 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and 25 formal warnings.
- The St. Catharines Standard is reporting community spread and close contact at gatherings, such as parties and lunch breaks at work, are to blame for Niagara's rising COVID-19 infection rate. Acting medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji told the paper that people have spread the virus at social gatherings, and taken it to long-term care homes, exposing vulnerable people. Once again, Hirji warned that contact tracing, a crucial way to track and limit viral spread, is harder now there are so many more cases.The Standard reported earlier this week that Niagara seems close to the red zone of the province's pandemic control plan.